Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2002-10-22-Speech-2-104"

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"Mr President, let me start by thanking my colleagues, particularly those on the Committee on Budgets, and the Committee on Budgets’ secretariat. They have done a fantastic job with this budget and I think this is an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the incredibly hard work carried out by staff in this context. I would also like to thank the Commission and the Council, who through a long line of trialogues, conciliation, working groups and other contacts have helped to ensure that we now have a good draft budget for 2003 to vote on. I would also like to emphasise that on the vast majority of points we in the Committee on Budgets have reached broad agreement, which is naturally also an enormous strength for Parliament. The Committee on Budgets has also chosen which side it is on. We have chosen to consciously exceed the ceilings within budget categories, partly to demonstrate the absurdity of the current locked system. I will return to this when giving more detailed reasons. Note that I am not looking to abolish the budget ceilings. I am not arguing that we should abandon the demand for budgetary restrictions. However, there must be something in between total abandonment and what we are living with at the moment, a rigid planned economy locked for seven years. I hope that in the future it will also go without saying that the codecision model must apply to the budget agricultural policy, and that the EU’s expenses must be included in the budget the European Development Fund. This is an important area which I hope we can continue to discuss in the years ahead. I would now like to mention a more general problem before going into the various budget headings, namely the implementation of the EU’s budget. This is becoming a serious problem. We cannot go back to the citizens, the taxpayers, year after year and tell them that every year we take EUR 15 billion from them which we then pay back to their grateful ministers of finance. I believe that major work is needed on this issue if the Union is to gain credibility for its policies and its budget and if we are to be able to live up to all the promises we make through the budget. We must quite simply simplify the administration of the structural funds, which we can start doing right now in the current period. We have Commissioner Barnier’s word on this, while of course we can be even more radical ahead of the coming programme period. I also believe that we must improve the entire process when starting new multi-annual programmes. Time after time we are told that when multi-annual programmes are starting their third or fourth programme period we are now in the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, the third LIFE programme, etc. a whole year is often needed in order to start up activities at the beginning of a new period. This is completely preposterous. It sometimes means having to compress work intended to take five years into four years in practice. A third area where I think we have to achieve an improvement in implementation and simplification is staff issues. This year we decided not to use flexibility for new posts in the Commission. This does not mean that these posts are not needed. In the long term I believe there will be a demand for more posts, partly to operate the new, more decentralised organisation in the external service, but of course this means that the Commission must thoroughly demonstrate that it is working effectively, that reform of the Commission is being carried out, that more efficient management is having an impact, and that, for example, the second step in what is known as the RELEX reform is really being carried out. Without these efforts it will be hopeless to argue for more Commission posts, even if we are convinced that they really are necessary in the long term. I would now briefly like to address some of the actual problems in each budget area. When it comes to agricultural policy, heading 1, the committee has for many years argued for a fundamental change, the development of agricultural policy. As a demonstration we have even decided to exceed the budget ceiling by EUR 20 million for sub-heading 1b, rural development, to indicate our position in this respect. We consider namely that in the future, money, especially the excess money under heading 1, should be switched to the more proactive rural development policy. We also propose that subsidies for the export of live animals should be reduced and accounted for separately. This will clearly show how much money is actually being spent on live animal exports. By the way, it will be very interesting to see whether the governments which have criticised animal transport, etc. now really seize the opportunity to follow Parliament’s line. Everything we are proposing is in line with the Commission’s proposal for a mid-term review, even if in the resolution we have chosen to call it development of agricultural policy rather than reform. Heading 2: the Structural Funds. I have already mentioned the problem with implementation. Therefore I will now only briefly take up the fisheries question. I fully understand that in the current situation the Danish Presidency is prioritising enlargement. This is the most important political question but nevertheless, fisheries policy must also be reformed. The EU must create sustainable fishing which can survive in the long term. While awaiting concrete proposals we have chosen to do two things. Firstly we maintain that last year’s promise of a further EUR 27 million to convert the Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleets will be met. At the same time we have chosen not to adopt a position on how this is to be funded in detail, we will return to that at a later date. When it comes to the budget item for fisheries reform we have chosen to set up such a budget item but not to allocate concrete amounts to it. It will be a ‘memorandum item’. I would like to begin with some fundamental reflections on the EU’s budgetary system. I have to say that after having worked on this budget for approximately ten months, I am of the firm opinion that the EU’s budgetary system is in need of major reform. We will gain a number of improvements in the form of the new Financial Regulation. There will also be a number of improvements in the form of the ABB system, the system of activity-based budgeting. In heading 3, internal policies, I would mainly like to mention information policy. We do not accept the Council’s and the Commission’s proposal for comprehensive slimming down of information policy. On the contrary, we think that the union needs better support among its citizens. Here information is a necessary lubricant. Despite this, however, we are moving the money and our priority is clear, what matters is enlargement and the future of the EU. I would also like to point to the external authorities, the agencies Here we have taken a more restrictive line. We have followed the Council’s draft budget in the vast majority of cases. This is because the Member States are on the boards of these agencies and should therefore reasonably take the consequences of these agencies’ needs into account in the Council’s own budget proposal. Unfortunately we have to say that this is not always the case. Therefore I believe that this is a matter we will need to discuss somewhat in the future. When it comes to pilot projects and preparatory measures, I think we have achieved a very good dialogue with the Commission on their implementation. We are now launching some new ideas, including an idea for a pilot project for co-operation between small and medium-sized companies in the EU, not only with the candidate countries but also with countries such as Russia, countries in the Balkans and in North Africa, which I believe will be very important. Finally, I would like to concentrate on heading 4, external policies. Ever since I entered Parliament in 1999 we have been forced to fight the same battle in this area every year. The Council and the Commission propose major new initiatives. This has concerned the Balkans and Serbia. This year it is Afghanistan and the Global Health Fund, support to the fight against AIDS and other poverty-related illnesses in the developing world. No one takes responsibility, however, for allocating the resources needed. I think this is absurd. The budget ceiling is simply too low. Costs have increased every year without any new resources being allocated. This year we have chosen to exceed the ceiling but to do it openly by means of an asterisk amendment, where we demand EUR 72 million more for heading 4 with direct reference to Afghanistan and the Global Health Fund. We have built this proposal as far as possible on a combination of priorities from our two committees here, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the Committee on Development and Cooperation. I believe this is what will be the main point in negotiations with the Council between the first and the second reading. It must be resolved if we are to achieve an acceptable role for the EU’s external actions. This also applies to the common foreign and security policy. It is unacceptable that this work is increasingly sliding over more and more from administrative expenses to operational activities but without the influence on the budget which the European Parliament in ordinary external relations. For this reason we have chosen to set the CFSP grant at the minimum level, 30 million, plus 10 million but we have allocated this through the Cards programme in order to be able to establish the European police task force in Bosnia. I believe this is an issue which we must discuss very carefully between the first and the second readings. To conclude, I would like to say that this is the last budget for an EU with 15 Member States. Therefore, of course, starting to prepare for enlargement has clearly been the utmost priority even in this budget. I am particularly pleased to be able to say that we have resolved the majority of the problems with enlargement. We have resolved them in broad agreement. All the political groups have played their part, as have members from all the national delegations. I think this feels like possibly the greatest success of this work this year. We have been able to tackle a number of points ourselves by improving the internal work of Parliament itself. I have put a great deal of effort into obtaining a better dialogue with the committees. Now, dialogue between, on the one hand, the Committee on Budgets and, on the other hand, the committees and their rapporteurs for the budget takes place as a practically permanent process, beginning with the guidelines in the spring, including the new work carried out this year with special working groups to monitor this year’s budget and extending to the amendments ahead of the first reading. I therefore believe that we have reduced the traditional conflict where the various committees do not think that the Committee on Budgets is paying sufficient attention to their political priorities and where the Committee on Budgets in turn has often considered that the committees are fighting for unrealistic budgetary demands. This year we have come further than before, not least when it comes to the traditionally problematic section on what are known as the A30 grants to various European organisations. This year through close cooperation with the committees and the political groups we have been able to submit a unanimous proposal from the Committee on Budgets. As you know, we have also reformed the budget debate and have already held the major budget debate at the September sitting. This was an experiment which I think worked well but there is no doubt that it can be improved further. Despite these improvements I am still not satisfied. Here I would like to send a signal to our colleagues in the Convention. I think that it is unreasonable to make permanent a system involving a long-term budget plan which has such rigid principles for sectoral budget ceilings as those we are living with at the moment. Now, only halfway through the budget planning period, they are giving rise to an increasing number of ad hoc systems which risk making the budgeting methodology completely confusing. During this year’s budget process we have already received proposals from the Commission on use of the flexibility instrument in three cases. In the July conciliation we agreed on more planned use of something which should really be an emergency reserve. We have solved the Commission’s problem of obtaining sufficient personnel resources ahead of enlargement by means of a complicated model of frontloading, which means that we hunt down unused resources for the current year and use them for costs which would otherwise have fallen in 2003. Just today in conciliation with the Council we agreed on another new flexibility instrument, the EU Solidarity Fund, to deal with the effects of natural disasters, etc. Now, however, we have to ask ourselves how many such flexibility instruments and how many ad hoc solutions we will need before we realise on a wide front that the entire budgeting methodology needs reforming and to become more flexible."@en1
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